My Resume is a Worthless Piece of e-Paper

I’ll get personal today because a lot of career issues are common. Many people are unemployed, and stuck that way.

I hate my resume. I mean it is pretty, thanks to fabulous layout. I’ve done tons of interesting things. I’m on top of all new technologies, innovations, social media, and business news; and I’ve started two successful consultancies.  But that doesn’t necessarily get a person an interview request when you’re only submitting to the best places to work along with hundreds-thousands of other people.

I’m  always telling everyone – here’s what your resume should say, how it should say it, and what the overall feeling you get from it should be. But when you don’t like your resume?

You can’t always write a career summary that would explain your situation positively or in a way that would put you ahead of the person who majored in the right areas in school or who obtained and advance degree in an area you want to enter, who then went on to have only progressively responsible positions in your field, and has been in it for 10 years – not too many more or less.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do the job better that above said person – but on paper it’s obvious who gets chosen for the interview.  You haven’t managed large budgets? You haven’t managed large teams? Don’t have ‘accomplishments’ to brag about that don’t sound like, well, bragging?

What’s a candidate to do when they want to work at google or apple? Or some other fabulously innovating company that values and develops their talent – when you don’t have it on paper?

Different people handle this situation in different ways – but here are a few I’ve seen:

1. Have a simple resume, get a job in a company at the bottom of the ladder (i.e. unpaid internship, administrative assistant, etc.), and work your way up. This if fine for the young, patient, and ambitious. Especially the males, they statistically do better with this method. Women who attempt this generally stay towards the bottom of the career ladder.

2. Volunteer either in or outside of work for large-scale projects, so you have those accomplishments to put on your resume. This is great if you’re unemployed or don’t have a lot of obligations, as that it’s time consuming – but for someone trying to manage a career, long commutes, and family or other obligations it’s not always practical.

3. Lying. People figure into the recruiters-are-ditzes stereotype and hope their exaggerating what and where they’ve done it won’t be seen through. Ethics aside – people figure ‘everybody’s doing it’, which is unfortunately accurate for a lot of people. Ewwwwwwww.

4. Humor. I’ve seen a woman returning from being a stay at home mom have on her resume, “CEO of Smith Household.” Or, “Executive Director of Childcare.”  You can throw in a few things that might help your personality come across to recruiters. I know that whomever is reading my resume is probably sick of looking at resumes, especially ones that all sound the same – so a little fun with it, tastefully, might help get attention.

Unfortunately, as you can guess, lying generally gets people the furthest into the interview process. Depending on the employer, often the liar may even get the job. Some jobs you only have to ‘talk the talk’, and it doesn’t matter if you ever did or ever will ‘walk the walk’. But for other positions, actual skills and experience are necessary to do a job appropriately. Once you’re figured out you’ll be back on the job hunt again, bringing you back to the beginning of the cycle where said evil people belong.

So what do you do first?

You be patient. You network. You continue to improve your resume. You follow the places you want to work, be on top of their openings that you’re qualified for. You attend events to meet people who work for these companies. If you have time, offer to volunteer or intern for them. You do everything in your power to set yourself apart from the herd appropriately in all of your social media profiles. You follow people and companies on linkedin. You join industry groups on linkedin. You ask others who were in your boat who’ve succeeded how they did it. You You You…it’s all about YOU, and what efforts you are willing to put in.

And then hope that one day it’ll all pay off, as you sit enjoying the view from your corner office of the company of your dreams. Sigh. Dare to dream.

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Components of a ‘Talent’ Profile

So what does the known ‘Talent’ pool have on their resume that you may not?

Now I know this all must sounds cynical, and you’ll probably roll your eyes at half of these. I’m not saying even one of them is necessary to be a talented worker or leader – these are just some of my observations of what I see most valued in the business world.

Have most of these, and recruiters will be banging down your door begging to make a commission off of you.

  1. Advanced degree(s) from top school(s) with honors or top GPA (btw, rumor has it that Brown & Dartmouth are out of style, albeit ivy)
  2. Political experience of some kind – even internships are valued
  3. Accomplishments galore in monetary terms, with exact impressive figures
  4. Management of huge (million to billion) budgets
  5. Impressive do-gooder credentials from when you did your B.A. or right after (i.e. peace corps, americorps, red cross, teach for America, unicef, UN work, humanitarian aid to 3rd world country, etc.)
  6. Design major programs or initiatives that people have heard of
  7. Consultant experience. Not the kind that was between jobs like, “Principal of Sharon’s Consultancy.” I mean some time at a top consulting firm (Bane, McKinsey, BGC, Parthenon…)
  8. Progressively impressive titles (i.e. analyst, project manager, special asst. to someone in a very high place, deputy director, director, etc.)
  9. Posh extra curricular’s & hobbies – polo, marathon running, ballet, triathalons, international backpacking
  10. Old money neighborhood or trendy address ideal
  11. Awards/fellowships: specific ones in your professional arena, fullbrights, broad scholars, etc.
  12. Study & travel abroad, preferably somewhere prestigious
  13. Professional affiliations – may be required depending on field
  14. Impressive buzz words in proper context, not just in white font for SEO on applicant systems: organizational strategy, dedicated, managed, financial analysis, advisory board, researched, pioneered, chaired (or at least co-chaired), strategic planning,  gates, dell or other large donor procurement, implementation, process improvement design, blah blah blah…
  15. Impressive companies or foundations to have worked for – big names make people happy

The War for Talent Has Lazy Soldiers

Cover of "The War for Talent"

Cover of The War for Talent

Well for those unfamiliar with the ‘War for Talent’ – start with this wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_war_for_talent.

Next – how and why I disagree with the overall idea that ‘Talent’ is really limited to so few people.

I’m not going to say that everyone is competent at their jobs, willing to always give 100%, go beyond what is asked of them, and lead others well – but I also don’t believe that everyone with this potential has been discovered already and only those at the management level of top of companies have it.

Lots of smart talented people are always looking for work. The issue seems to be that companies feel there are only ‘so many’ talented people, and they are the coveted platinum of hires that everyone wants.

But that’s known talent. Those are the stars with perfect resumes who have already been discovered. It’s easier to poach another company’s rising star than it is to find someone with executive potential that hasn’t had senior level roles yet, one who went to an average college or who took time off of work for a few years to raise her children. If someone has a lackluster resume when applying to a position, they get deleted. Hiring managers and recruiters aren’t losing sleep at night thinking, “Did I delete potential talent from the candidate pool today?”

If talent is defined by brains, flexibility, dedication to company mission, and willingness & ability to exceed expectations – who says that you don’t have it, just because you haven’t used it for a company yet?

No one, I suppose. Do you think you have that undiscovered talent the business world is looking for? I think I do, for one. And those that I meet networking often feel the same way when they ask me to consider working for their company. But as soon as they ask me to send over a resume, I know I’m pretty much finished if they’re not desperate to hire.

So how does one become recognizable talent from their resume? Stay tuned for a later post, I’ll try to chart out office superstar resumes as a whole – what they have that you (and I) are lacking.

Hiring Ethics Question of the Day: Should Smart People Be Paid More?

Wordle: http://sharon.cc

Or, in other words, does it boil down to:

The Talent Profile vs. The Talent Myth?

The ‘Talent’ buzzword is beyond overused in the HR world nowadays (although not quite as stupidly as ‘HR should have a seat at the table blah blah…’). There’s an idea that some people are capable of ‘more’ than others, and that said talented people will be your ideal employees.

It reminds me of ‘talent’ programs for high IQ kids in elementary schools. But is that what it’s really about? Smart people are the best employees and therefore should be paid the most? If you got the highest GPA you win the job with a bonus?

I guess that leads to another question: Are there certain people who are really capable of more – or is it about willingness to do more? And what does this have to do with the talent profile?

I think the key thing to take into account is whether or not brains make the best employees. I’m not going to say brain power, aka, ‘talent’, isn’t important – especially for more senior level decision makers – it’s essential. It’s what I look for when I recruit for senior positions – but it’s more than just brains or a high GPA. Plenty of people have those with little ability for application of logic in the workplace.

Now for entry through average-level jobs – I personally think the best workers will be those who are doers, who play nicely with others, with good hearts who help others out. People with disabilities will generally be a better coworker/performer than the smart, lazy ‘talented’ jerk.

So what do you all think? Is ‘talent’ about brains, flexibility, a willingness to go beyond status quo – or something else entirely? Should ‘talent’ be directly linked to compensation?

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pWfpN-dp

The 7 Not-So-Highly Effective Habits of Career Fair-Goers

ARRA Job Fair - July 30-Aug 1, 2009

Image by Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

As that I attended a career fair as an employer today (or yesterday rather when this gets published), I feel it’s as good of a time as any to bring up etiquette for career fairs. I won’t go into serious detail about researching companies and applying to the jobs before the career fair (and before everyone else does) – I’m hoping that’s a given. This is more of what to expect from both the people at the employer table, and what should come from you on the other side to make a (decent) memorable impression.

(Disclaimer: You can disclaim anything you’d like by saying disclaimer, but as always, these are my thoughts and opinions, and no one else can dream of taking credit for them, especially my employer. Please note this is for a said employer whose positions and job advertisements I shall no longer be posting due to internal conflict).

So I’ll start with the ’employer’ side at career fairs. There are prepared recruiters at fairs, and there’s the staff that’s dragged there and asked to do recruiting a favor. Not always the case, but depending on company size and number of recruiters left after downsizing, and you never know if the person you’re speaking to is the company lawyer (i.e. I have a tendency to recruit my OEO department to assist with OEO recruiting at these).

Some tables will have no one at it, just materials to take about the company or their jobs. Other tables will be giving away tons of things & having promotions to get attention. This generally boils down to company budget. Which leads into my personality type #1…

1. The Brazen Hand-Out Thief.

Oh yes, the not-so slick person who is obviously not looking for a job, who is immune to dirty looks – they want nothing more than your squeeze toy, pen, ruler, or IRS spray on hand sanitizer (ok the hand sanitizer one is justifiable at a hand-shaking event, especially for those loose, sweaty-hand shakes, but still…).

At one career fair someone came right up to me and said, “What do you have for me? I said, of, are you interested in heard about our jobs? And he corrected me, and said, “No, what are you giving away?” I apologized that I had nothing – so the guy stole my water bottle just to walk away with something. Some people are like that at career fairs – they’re there for the handout pens. Make sure that’s not you – even if the company you walk up to doesn’t have a job for you. You don’t need a squishy light bulb anyway.

I’m not saying don’t take the pen – I’m just saying be polite. Understand these people may not actually have any say in the hiring process, and may in fact be from completely different departments than you’d be interested in working for.

So what’s a job seeker to do?

Have a conversation. Start with the usual introductions & handshakes (which again, why this is still done in flu season bewilders me) and then ask the person a question, like, “What type of positions do you have available now?” It’s simple, easy, and although it makes the person talk, it’s a natural conversation. Walking up and delivering your elevator speech about your sales expertise – only to find out a company has accounting openings only – will make you feel silly & will leave an awkward position. Take this to the extreme, and you have rude personality #2…

2. The Talker.

While you definitely want to talk to the companies presenting at the fair and make a good impression, as with all experience in life you need to make a brief, strong, memorable impression – and then leave. Overstaying your welcome applies to the career table too. Notice ques of when the conversation is winding down, offer a card or resume, and then walk away. Dragging out the conversation will not improve your chances of candidacy if it’s not natural or there’s nothing relevant to say. The talker also is inconsiderate to others waiting in line, and just keeps trying to monopolize the table’s time…but believe it or not, you can actually make it worse by…

3. The Salesman.

Oh, you don’t have any position available at your accounting firm for a doctor? Oh, well, here’s my card in case you ever get sick, you might be glad that you have my info. I can do x, y, and z for you as well…

Now is not the time. Career fairs are not your personal sales floor, and I really doubt this will drum up business for you. More on shameless promoting here.

4. The Liar.

Well, I’m sure they would just consider themselves the ‘boaster’ or ‘exaggerator’, but still, if you don’t fit the bill for the company’s open roles – man up and move along son, move along. No point trying to twist what you’ve done…why yes, I’m an accountant, but I think the fact that I’ve done the taxes for my doctor for the last six years qualifies me for you physician role…

Now this does not negate trying to translate your wanting to change fields and explaining how your experience is relevant to the new role/field – but keep it real.

5. The Non-Talker.

Wait, didn’t I just say don’t over-talk? Well it’s not good to walk up to a table and not say enough. Especially if you’re shy and small talk isn’t your specialty – consider it good interview practice, by making strong eye contact (without leering – #6 to come) and making professional small-talk with employers. It’s not a comfortable situation for the employers to have to try to figure out what jobs they should be telling you about. They also shouldn’t have to introduce themselves to you – they have a huge sign. You know who they are – after all their name is on the pen you just pocketed.

If you find it really hard to get talking, try to open the floor to them, say their materials show they have accounting positions only. You can ask if they anticipate any openings in your area in the near future. You can ask them for a card & connect with them on linkedin if they accept, and ask them to keep you in mind if roles in your area open up. Don’t force conversation, especially if it makes you anxious. You’re better off taking it online.

You can also ask if they can pass your resume on to the sales department. Could be there are positions being recruited for that the person at the career fair doesn’t even know about. Then walk away.

You also might benefit from preparing a script of potential things you’d like to ask or say to an employer, try rehearsing it in the bathroom mirror…whatever works for you to get you talking comfortably. A slick talker with no experience can make a better impression than an expereinced phD who is…

6. The Leering Candidate.

Ahh yes, you want to talk to your dream company. You came to the career fair because your dream company was attending. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years (Hey, why have I never gone to a career fair where google was presenting? Hmmm maybe I’m on to something).

So now you’re faced with your dream company, and you’re terrified. So you wait on line, staring at the table for 10 minutes. Then you lose your bravado, and circle the table again. Then you circle the room…all the while watching the recruiters.

And they know you’re watching. You’ve officially become a creepy leering candidate. They are now probable more scared of you than you are of them. Recruiters tend to be observant people-people. Just walk up, stand your ground, and get it over with. Just try not to grovel at their feet when you get to them. And finally…

7. The Legal Nightmare…aka the career fair version of an ambulance-chaser.

If you walk up to a table and say something that will put up red-alerts that you’re looking for places to sue more than jobs, your conversations might start with one-liners like…

“Does your company have any positions open for people ‘like me’?” Or, “I’m pregnant. Will this hurt my chance at candidacy?”

It’s the career fair equivalent of putting too much personal info on a resume. Once you offer information that’s not legal for a recruiter to ask you, you might be making them uncomfortable. Or, worse, if they’re closed-minded, you might have just given them ammunition to discriminate against you.

Now I’m not saying to hide things – but there’s a time and a place for everything, although in the professional world sometimes the right time is never.

This also extends to trying the ‘cultural or racial connection’ with the employer. Don’t think that because the recruiter at the table is the same demographic as you, that they’ll want to give you any special consideration or opportunity because of it, and to imply so is on the tasteless side.

Let me end with a personal example to drive this point home.

Say I’m at a career fair, and I see google. If I walk up to them and say, “Hi, I’m Sharon, and I need to leave work early on Fridays for personal religious reasons. Is that OK?” At this point, especially if the recruiter isn’t familiar with Jews, they’d be rolling their eyes behind my back. Or rather rolling their eyes over MY head – to see the next candidate in line, as that I just removed myself from the potential employee database.

Instead, if I walk up and say, “Hi, I’m Sharon, and I am so excited to meet you. I’m a big google fan, and think the google labs are so much fun! Do you happen to have any talent recruiting or organizational development roles available now besides the ones posted on your website? I applied to that one yesterday.”  By this I’ve just opened the floor, shown some knowledge of the company, my eagerness to work for them by putting in effort before coming to meet them – and most importantly – I won’t get the brush off from them saying, “The first step all potential candidates need to do is apply online, so you can go home and go to our website, h-t-t-p-:-/-/-g-o-o-g-l-e-.-c-o-m…, ok, thanks, bye”.

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Hi, Nice to Meet You. Me, Me Me, Me, MeMeMe…

Pulse radar

Image via Wikipedia

Networking is not all about you…well at least it shouldn’t be.

Almost all advice on getting jobs nowadays say networking is key to finding a new career, either online (linkedin etc.), through personal contacts, or at networking events- but few will tell you how to have a positive networking interaction.

I happen to be a natural at this, so I’ll give you insight into what I do, focusing on events as that I’m attending one tonight. These generally generate job leads for myself (which I decline with decorum) and for friends.

Quality of Networks beats Quantity of Networks: I feel walking away with 1+ strong connection from an event is far more important than meeting everyone in the room. But who do you meet, and how do you meet them?

The last event I went to (from HCI, very well done, will go into that another time) had networking time built into the schedules (instead of just saying break time). They also helped facilitate meetings by announcing the industries by show of hands so if you wanted to network with those in your industry or meet someone from a different specific one, you saw who was from where.

Networking should be the start of a mutually beneficial professional relationship to be successful.

Unless it’s an executive recruiter or someone who works for a place with a strong employee referral bonus, most people don’t talk to you just to hear about you and how great you are or how great the product you want to sell them is.

Take the following tips for what they’re worth.

1. Dress really well, but not like everyone else. Dress even better than you usually do. As that it’s not a formal interview I don’t recommend just a somber suit. Suits are great, but add eye catching accessories. Women can wear dresses. Men can have a funky, yet stylish tie. You don’t want to get lost in the crowd, and it’s easy if you stand out just a drop, but in a good way.

If someone you meet wants to introduce you to their hiring manager who’s also at the event, if you’re the 5’8 guy in the black suit and white shirt, well she probably won’t be able to pick you out of the crowd and you’ve just missed an opportunity. If you’re the guy in the purple tie, she’ll be confident she sees the right person, and can even tell the hiring manager to meet the guy in the purple tie.

Invest in one great outfit that you feel confident in – you can always use it for interviews and for the great job you get later. Ladies, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet for hours, and want to look confident and serene – not aching for flats.

2. Confidence is key. Body language is what makes a huge difference in people both wanting to approach you, and being comfortable talking with you. Even if you hate these events, and hate meeting new people, get over it and fake it. I don’t mean to say go overboard. You don’t need to tell each person who introduces themselves to you that you’re thrilled to meet them – but a strong, brief handshake and eye contact will tell that person that You’re someone worth talking to. Then they’ll ask about you and want to know why you’re so confident. They thereby take the pressure off of you to make banal conversation, and you can listen to see if they have any connections or insights to offer you.

3. Make a good impression on everyone you meet. You never know if that guy in the stained sportscoat is actually the CEO of a multi-million dollar new DUMBO start up. Hipsters can throw you off like that. You might think they’re the cleaning crew, but they really might own the venue. You never know who a person is and what you might gain by networking with them. Hey, they might be the custodian at Google, and maybe they can get you an in with their hiring managers, who know? See, possibilities are endless if you open doors, not slam them.

4. Listen carefully. Try to remember names of people you speak to for extended periods. Ask them for their card before parting so you have their name, and offer yours. Chances are they forgot your name as well, and you want to give them something to identify your information by. If you have generic cards, write a short note or give one additional contact on your card to a person you’d really like to remember you. They’ll remember you taking the time to add your cell number to your office card for them specially.

5. Speak up. If there are any questions posed to the crowd, and you have anything even remotely intelligent or interesting to add to the conversation – then do it. This is not the time to be shy. I usually do this and get a lot of positive attention from people looking to hear more about what I said. It’s not because I say something amazing – it’s generally an easy conversation starter – and people would naturally rather make easy conversation than look for a common bond with a different stranger.

So take a few of these tips into account next time you attend an event relevant to you (i.e. don’t walk into a medical conference expecting to make great connections if you’re not in the field). It’s better to go to less places that are specific to the type of people you’d like to meet than to be all over the place and burn out.

Then follow up – link on linkedin or send a quick email to anyone you’d like to stay networked with. Thank them for their acquaintance. Offer to assist them if you have any skills or contacts that would be helpful for them. Remember to keep it a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship or you’ll find these people falling off your radar quickly.

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